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Differentiating: a clear choice?

With only a couple of days to the general election, you can’t fail to have noticed each of the political parties clamouring to declare in bold terms the clear choice they offer to voters. But equally noticeable is the distinct look of “it’s as clear as mud” on the faces of journalists and Joe Public alike. It shouldn’t be that difficult, should it? I mean, there’s one on the left, one on the right, and one in the middle, isn’t there?
And what’s that got to do with B2B marketing? Well, leaving the politics to other more suitable forums, this is a great example of how difficult it seems to be to create and communicate a proposition with a clear difference. Sure, it’s easy to create a proposition, and easy to communicate one. But that’s not the same as being able to tell your potential customers, in a nutshell, what is really different about your product or service in a way that matters to them.
So why is it apparently so difficult? We humans generally have a desire to please others, which is only accentuated when we are in sales mode. When this kicks in, we adopt a “me too” approach, desperate to tick all the boxes in an attempt to make sure we don’t lose out. The result? Blurring the lines of differentiation and confusing the customer (only after we’ve confused ourselves!).

Then there’s the opposite extreme which is equally confusing, where we claim that our product or proposition is absolutely 100% unique. Nothing even close to it. So unique and clever that no-one’s understood and bought it yet. Don’t get me wrong – really unique break-through propositions do come along from time to time. But most propositions are not completely unique, and overplaying the unique card turns every proposition into a unique one … which kind of defeats the point!
The root of the problem seems to come back to deciding who you are trying to appeal to – or in marketing terms: defining your market segment. Know who you want to sell to, and, just as importantly, know who you don’t want to sell to. Determine what your offer to them is, and make sure you understand their compelling reason to buy, and what’s in it for them. Understand who your competitors are, and describe clearly what is different or better about your product or service. Keep it simple, and clear.
So, how does your proposition stack up in the Mustard or Turkey (MOT) test – is it hot as mustard or does it leave people cold turkey?